2016 Gold Medal Application

The Frankfort Square Park District is participating in the 2016 National Recreation and Parks Association Gold Medal Awards Program.  The following is a copy of the application offered for public review.

Profile Responses (1-14)

Click here to view Profile Responses (1-14)

Essay Responses (15-23)

15. What makes your agency “Outstanding”? Please cite 3 specific examples that capture the outstanding nature of your agency as you serve your unique community.

Word count: 180

FSPD services residents in Will and Cook Counties, Frankfort and Rich Townships, and the Villages of Frankfort and Tinley Park. FSPD residents value intergovernmental cooperation, evidenced by a 97% approval rating in its latest community-wide survey. Cooperative efforts with local school districts provide FSPD with keyed-access to schools, in exchange for outdoor maintenance, enabling use of 268,083 sq.ft. of indoor programming space.

FSPD stays current with residents’ changing needs. Realizing a shift away from team athletics, FSPD constructed facilities for lifetime sports/fitness, highlighted by 9.9 miles of paths, 3 regional areas of outdoor fitness equipment, 21 fishable ponds, skate park, inline hockey rink, Frisbee golf course, horseshoes, bag toss, community gardens, and an affordable golf course with free 18-hole putting course.

FSPD’s commitment to reduce its carbon footprint is evident in the installation of a wind turbine and solar panels at its nature center. These green improvements generate 19,052 kW-hrs. annually, equaling 120% of the electricity required to power the nature center. Further demonstrating its environmental stewardship, the nature center also includes a green roof, rain barrels, and a bioswale.

 

16. Tell us your story about how your agency positively impacts the community you serve. Share with us 5 actions or activities your agency has been involved with or undertaken in the past three years.

Word count: 200

FSPD’s annual community golf outing at its district-owned Square Links Golf Course raised $10,000 in 2015 that will be awarded in the spring to ten graduating high school seniors. Since inception, FSPD has provided eighty-four college scholarships, totaling $84,000.

FSPD partners with Frankfort Township, processing tree branches into high-quality mulch for landscaped areas utilizing a tub grinder, with free excess product provided to residents. This joint effort annually saves both agencies $35,000, and benefits the environment by reducing landscape waste that was previously taken to landfills.

FSPD cooperated with a local school district to reopen an unused elementary school for community use. FSPD now fills hallways with children’s voices and laughter with 1,000+ weekly participants in before/after-school care, dance, art, and active programming.

FSPD has long been a proponent of saving the monarch butterfly through conservation and education efforts. In 2015, FSPD established milkweed sales, engaging the community by making the monarchs’ host/nectar plant available to homeowners.

Team Asset, comprised of parents, schools, churches, and park districts, is dedicated to creating an atmosphere where children and teenagers are supported socially, morally, and emotionally. The program reinforces forty character traits that ensure children of today become positive future adults of tomorrow.

 

17. There are few resources more critical than public support, citizen involvement, and staff engagement. Please identify one outstanding or innovative example for each of these 3 characteristics.

Word count: 210

FSPD continuously determines the vision of its community with a history of soliciting community input through professional independent district-wide surveys and stakeholder interviews. On perceived effectiveness, the 2014 survey/master plan reflects ratings of 82.1%-97.2%. FSPD’s openness and transparency is evident in the 2015 Park Board Workshop, where government/school representatives and residents attended to provide input and participate in the direction of the FSPD. All information gathered was posted to the FSPD website.

FSPD’s greenhouse, designed to produce native plantings for its natural areas, is utilized on a year-round basis. Once native propagation ceases each October, the facility is cleaned and sanitized, and leaf lettuce crops are produced, made possible by volunteers providing 700+ service hours. Lettuce harvests are donated to local food pantries, to benefit our neighbors in need. This volunteer-driven program produces 150+ pounds of lettuce annually.

In the interest of creating a district-wide culture of safety at work, home, and play, FSPD’s Risk Management team developed a module training system, ranging from injury prevention to seasonal safety. Staff members completed 765+ hours of training, reinforced with fun and interactive gatherings, i.e. Safety Cone Day and Jeopardy. This safety culture has permeated all areas of operation, and staff share this new-found knowledge with friends/family, spreading safety beyond the FSPD.

 

18. Public entities have been increasingly called upon to demonstrate the results of their services and practices to decision makers and the general public. Please share with us 3 results, impacts, or outcomes you have measured and brief background about the benefit and how the results were secured.

Word count: 210

Oak Forest High School AP biology students conducted biotic/abiotic testing of FSPD’s Island Prairie Pond and Bartel Grassland Pond in a neighboring community, drawing comparisons between bodies of water near residential developments and a remote location. Findings proved Island Prairie Pond water quality was good, with a balanced ecosystem and minimal chemicals. Conversely, Bartel Grassland Pond tested poorly, concluding the effectiveness of FSPD’s restoration efforts. Results were presented during a public meeting, attended by Park Board, staff, and residents.

FSPD is ideally suited with staff/facilities necessary to host worthwhile events, cooperating with local, national, and international organizations, highlighted by the American Cancer Society’s Bark for Life, International Rett Syndrome’s Strollathon, and Crisis Center of South Suburbia’s Indoor Triathlon, raising $100,000+ for worthy causes. Results are shared by the agencies through annual reports and media outlets.

Stakeholders were initially concerned about costs/benefits of developing a greenhouse within the nature center facility. Staff proved these concerns were unfounded, and quickly garnered full support from these stakeholders, as the facility produced 30,000 native plugs in its first year of operation. Staff and volunteers harvest seed from FSPD native areas to propagate in the greenhouse and plant in parks for all to enjoy. The net value exceeds $90,000 in annual savings to the budget.

 

19. Park and recreation agencies have long been known for creativity and innovation. One of the desirable outcomes of the Gold Medal Program is to identify these valuable efforts and approaches. Please identify and briefly explain three innovations implemented by your agency within the last three years.

Word count: 240

Not finding a suitable manufactured ADA accessible gardening table, FSPD worked with a local businessman and entrepreneur, Jim Bult, owner of MBI, to design/manufacture an all-aluminum pedestal table. The result is a fully-accessible gardening table for easy-reach wheelchair access that was installed at Brookside Bayou Park. Based on the success, two more tables were provided to Lincoln-Way North High School for their Environmental Action Club.

FSPD’s Safety Committee developed a Green/Yellow/Red Advanced Maintenance Equipment Operation and Training Program. All equipment, designated in three categories, specifies levels of risk from basic to extreme, and assigns training to correspond with these levels. Tangible benefits are the permanent record of training and improved efficiency and safety in completing daily tasks. Results are provided through a verifiable and tested increase on job and operational knowledge of employees. This program was awarded a $750 PDRMA grant for its innovation, effectiveness, and ability to share with others.

Traditional methods of reducing purple loosestrife have been ineffective. Purple loosestrife, known for its abundant seed production, produces 3,000,000+ small seeds per plant, easily dispersed by wind. In an effort to provide an environmentally progressive control of this invasive species, FSPD is cultivating leaf-eating beetles, a biological control to reduce this plant that provides little or no value as food or habitat for wetland animals. FSPD is introducing this method to our county, and through onsite cultivation, beetles can be shared with other agencies who face the same challenge.

 

20. In what way has your agency addressed the NRPA Pillar of Social Equity in the last three years?

Word count: 120

FSPD services residents through South Suburban Special Recreation Association (SSSRA), providing 265+ programs/events annually for individuals with special needs. The free Healthy Minds/Healthy Bodies program serves wounded veterans, enabling them to improve fitness levels and reintegrate into the community.

FSPD now serves a growing number of special needs children through its daily before/after-school program from 6:30-9:00am/2:00-6:30pm, providing $11,000+ annually for one-on-one inclusion care. Recognizing need, FSPD administration partners with SSSRA, providing increased opportunities for children diagnosed with autism.

All residents have immediate access to parks/recreation. Thirty-two parks/facilities and adjoining paths were designed to provide free/easy access to opportunities less than ¼ mile from residents’ homes. Additionally, no one is denied services, with FSPD providing program scholarships to those in need.

 

21. In what ways has your agency addressed the NRPA Pillar of Health and Wellness in the last three years?

Word count: 120

In an effort to address issues related to sedentary lifestyles, FSPD formed a Wellness Committee. Before/After-School and early childhood program participants are provided with healthy snacks and participate in daily physical activities, i.e. Road to Disney and Spring into Fitness. Wellness challenges, Walking to Sonoma, and climbing Chicago’s famous skyscrapers were developed for staff. Daily steps are tracked, instilling healthy competition, and participants strive to improve their “personal best”. FSPD partners with a local hospital dietician who provides information on healthy eating and access to wellness information. The Committee’s efforts increased health awareness, with staff sharing healthy recipes, increasing fiber, and decreasing sodium. In addition, fitness tracking at the beginning of staff challenges showed a 139,356 increase in daily steps.

 

22. In what ways has your agency addressed the NRPA Pillar of Conservation in the last 3 years?

Word count: 120

FSPD received a $10,000 grant from the ComEd Green Region Program to extend its Island Prairie boardwalk and shoreline/wetland restoration efforts, expanding access into this 35-acre site. Partnering with groups, i.e. Environmental Action Club, Scouts, and Master Naturalists, these volunteers assist by propagating native seed, planting wetland plugs, and boardwalk construction. Volunteers promote our conservation efforts with seed collection, Milkweed propagation/sales, and monthly bird counts.

FSPD owns/maintains 250 acres of dedicated natural areas, connecting children and adults with nature, while creating greenways to forest preserves and set-asides. FSPD protects these areas by employing dedicated staff highly trained in plant identification/harvesting/propagation, certified Prescribed Burn Managers, and licensed chemical operators utilizing restoration-specific equipment, ensuring FSPD is well-positioned to apply best management practices.

 

23. What challenges has your community and/or agency experienced over the past 3 years, and what steps/actions have you taken to resolve these challenges? Include agency role with challenge, types of actions/steps taken, and effectiveness of approach.

Word count: 210

The State of Illinois has faced serious budget issues that have resulted in a trickle-down effect, impacting our schools and park districts. Limited funding for schools was a key factor in the decision to close our community’s newly constructed high school, Lincoln-Way North, dealing a devastating blow to our small community. Meeting with school board members and administration, FSPD developed a plan to keep the facility open, ensuring this recreational community asset could remain available to residents. An intergovernmental agreement was re-drafted to provide access in exchange for FSPD’s grounds/facility maintenance. Over 101,000 residents, mutually served by both agencies, can be provided with full access to indoor and outdoor athletic/fitness/arts facilities.

The state’s budget crisis has also impacted the state-funded OSLAD grant program. FSPD, although awarded a $400,000 grant in 2014 to redevelop its oldest park site, learned that the funding source was no longer a viable option. Residents that supported this grant application were notified that the FSPD will work to provide these, and other district-wide improvements over time. A longer timeline to finish these projects was developed, the FSPD budget was reassessed, and alternative sources of grant and referendum funding are also being sought, ensuring the FSPD will move forward, despite having to face these serious budget challenges.